Understanding trauma requires an understanding of attachment theory.
From birth we learn how to relate to others and the world through our caregiver. We are also taught to understand our own emotions and how to control them. Many things are gained through this relationship which are crucial for emotional development and resilience building. If all is well, the child develops a ‘secure’ attachment and is unlikely to have further issues.
1. Secure Attachment
A securely attached child feels confident that should they feel anxious, their care giver will respond. Such security is brought on by interactions which are:
• Regularly available and reliable
The legacy of early attachment is reflected in children’s relationships with others, self-regulation, and emotional openness. Developing secure attachments help them to grow into adults who are more resilient to trauma and who can navigate relationships more easily.
2. Insecure Attachment
If the caregiver is unavailable or abusive an individual may not learn:
- How to feel safe/secure in self and with others
- The difference between intimacy and sexual contact
- To understand facial expressions or how to gage emotions in others
- How to understand and deal with their own emotions
- Confidence, self-worth
- How to engage socially
- How to appropriately get their needs met
These individuals will likely develop an insecure attachment style as an adult. People with insecure attachment styles may think:
- Others cannot be trusted or want to hurt them
- The world is dangerous
- Life is unfair
- Life has no meaning
- They have no control or power
- They need to be on guard all the time
- They are a bad person and the abuse was their fault
- They cannot protect themselves
They are unlikely to feel a sense of safety or control within themselves, with others, and with the world.
Building a therapeutic relationship with your beneficiary
- Friendly, but not friends
- Authentic, honest and fair
- Consistent and stable
- Being clear of your role
- Active listening
- Validate their actual emotions and feelings
- Be aware and honest about what you can/can’t do, know/don’t know
- Strong role model
- Clear boundaries
The main things for you to consider as a volunteer
1. What has happened to the individual not what is wrong with them
2. How can I make my beneficiary feel safe?
3. You are not here to heal or help, you are here to support and empower